Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Marine / Harmful algal bloom warning system will be first of its kind in UK

University of the Highlands and Islands PhD student Solène Giraudeau-Potel and Dr Callum Whyte of SAMS with the FlowCytobot.

A NEW initiative to support the early detection of harmful algal blooms has been hailed as a “potential game changer” for the local aquaculture industry.

Last week Seafood Shetland received a grant of £54,328 from the Coastal Communities Fund for the project.

The fund, which distributes revenue from Crown Estate assets out to 12 miles at sea, is administered by Shetland Islands Council.

Seafood Shetland chief executive Ruth Henderson said: “We are delighted to receive the funds which will enable us, through our partnership with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and the NAFC Marine Centre UHI, to gather important data from a new robotic research tool that can identify phytoplankton in a water sample by simply taking its picture.

“The state-of-the-art technology will give us an early warning of harmful algal blooms forming in the water, which presents a major threat to our finfish and shellfish aquaculture industry.”

Scientists from SAMS and Shetland’s NAFC Marine Centre UHI will deploy the FlowCytobot system at two sites on the west coast of Shetland.

Any presence and density of phytoplankton most commonly associated with harmful algal blooms will be detected early.

The team is led by Prof Keith Davidson from SAMS.

“This is a potential game changer in the quest for harmful algal bloom forecasting tools,” he said.

“The FlowCytobot uses similar technology to the facial recognition software used in security and in smartphones. This will only be the fifth of its kind deployed in Europe and the first in the UK.”

Henderson added that the captured data will be transferred to the existing weekly risk assessment bulletins.

Information will be disseminated directly to registered aquaculture businesses including Seafood Shetland members and interested stakeholders.

“We are particularly pleased to secure funds to support the aquaculture industry, which is the biggest contributor to the Crown Estate through its levies on sea farms,” Henderson said.

“Seafood Shetland wish to thank Shetland Islands Council for supporting this project.”